How Strict Is Southwest Airlines Baggage Policy?

Southwest has a generous check-in baggage allowance, and added to this Southwest’s cabin and check-in baggage allowances are relatively straightforward and simple to understand. The only really complications here are the embargoes on additional and excess baggage when traveling to Jamaica, Cuba, Belize, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica; these are explained in the article below.  

Southwest’s baggage information can be found here:

Baggage Information | Southwest Airlines

Southwest Cabin Baggage

Number of Cabin Baggage Items

When you fly with Southwest you can carry one carry-on bag (such as a roller bag or a small suitcase) and one personal item (such as a purse, backpack, briefcase, camera, food container, or a laptop in its case/bag) into the aircraft cabin with you.

Cabin Baggage Size Limitations

Carry-on bags cannot exceed 24 x 16 x 10in (61 x 40 x 25cm). Anything larger will need to be checked in. Carry-on bags need to be stored in the overhead compartments.

Personal item dimensions should not exceed 16.25 x 13.5 x 8in (41 x 34 x 20cm) and should be stored under the seat in front of you.

In addition, Southwest allows you to take the following items on board:

  • A child restraint system.
  • Assistive/mobility devices for individuals with a disability.
  • Outer garments or other articles of clothing you are wearing on the day.
  • Food in disposable packaging.
  • Walking canes or umbrellas.

Southwest Airlines Check-In Baggage


The good news is that Southwest allows all passengers, regardless of fare type purchased (‘Wanna Get Away’, ‘Wanna Get Away plus’, ‘Anytime’, and ‘Business Select’) to take up to two check-in bags for free, but weight and size limits apply.

Each additional bag, and any oversized bag, or overweight bags are subject to a fee.

Similar to other US carriers Southwest Airlines has check-in baggage embargoes in place for some destinations where there are restrictions in place on oversized, overweight, and the number of additional check-in bags that you can take. 

Check-in Baggage Size and Weight Limitations

Southwest’s standard check-in bag size is 62in (158cm) in total dimensions (length + width + height), and the standard weight is up to 50lb (23kg). Bags exceeding these limits are subject to excess baggage fees.

Free Check-in Baggage Allowances

All Southwest passengers are allowed to take two standard items of check-in baggage with them for free.

Active-duty military personnel with a current, valid military ID are exempt from the two-check-in baggage limit and are not subject to excess, oversize, or overweight baggage charges, as long as none of the baggage items exceed 100lb (45kg) in weight and 80in (203cm) in total dimensions.

Check-in Baggage Embargoes (Restrictions)

A baggage embargo is a restriction on oversized, overweight, and extra checked bags for certain international destinations. The embargoes apply either year-round or during busy holiday travel periods.

Cuba has a year-round baggage embargo. Customers may not check more than two bags. Also, oversized bags (over 62in/158cm total dimensions), overweight bags (more than 50lb/23kg), and boxes of any size are not accepted on this route.

Jamaica typically has baggage embargoes on excess and oversized baggage toward the end of summer and during other busy holiday periods.

Belize, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica have baggage embargoes during certain busy holiday travel periods.

Outside of any summer embargoes, the restrictions tend to be in effect from mid-November to early/mid-January each year. Booked passengers will be notified of any baggage embargo that applies to their flights in their preflight email.

Additional and Excess Baggage

If you want to check in more than your free allowance of two bags, each additional bag costs $US75 each way as long as it is no larger than 62in (158cm) in total dimensions and weighs 50lb (23kg) or less.

If these two free check-in bags are overweight (>50lb/23kg and up to a maximum of 100lb/45kg) and oversized items (>62in/158cm and up to a maximum of 80in/203cm) they can be accepted for a charge of $US75 per item. Only one $US75 charge applies if the baggage item is both oversized and overweight, regardless of the weight as long as it does not exceed 100lb/45kg.  Additional baggage that is overweight or oversized will be charged the additional baggage fee plus the applicable oversize or overweight charge.

Southwest will not accept any baggage item weighing more than 100lb (45kg) and exceeding 80in (203cm) in size must be shipped as air cargo.

In total, each passenger is limited to twenty items of check-in baggage per flight, unless embargoes apply. This limitation includes your free check-in baggage allowance.

Additional and excess baggage fees can be paid at Southwest self-service kiosks.  

Sports Items

Southwest allows a wide variety of sporting equipment to be checked in as part of your free check-in baggage allowance if packaged as one item and within Southwest’s standard check-in baggage size and weight limits. If the item of sporting equipment exceeds 50lb (23kg) in weight or 62in (158cm) total dimensions, excess weight and size charges may apply. Sporting items accepted as part of your check-in allowance include bicycles, bowling equipment, golf bags, and water ski equipment.  

Smaller sporting equipment items such as skateboards can be substituted for one of your free cabin baggage items.

Southwest Airlines has two helpful specific conditions related to the carriage of surfboards and snow ski equipment:   

  • Surfboards fly free on inter-island flights in Hawaii as part of your free check-in baggage allowance, unless your surfboard bag exceeds the weight allowance for flights between the islands of Hawaii. When traveling on flights between the islands of Hawaii, the check-in baggage size limit does not apply. For travel to Hawaii, Southwest charges its standard $US75 specialized sports equipment fee each way fee (assuming your surfboard bag exceeds Southwest’s standard check-in baggage weight and size limits).
  • Snow ski equipment includes one pair of skis or one snowboard, one set of poles, and one pair of ski/snowboard boots encased in a container(s). Southwest allows up to two bags (containing one set of snow skis, ski poles, and snow boots) to count as one item, even if they are packed and tagged separately.

Southwest’s sporting equipment policy can be found here:

Special Baggage and Sports Equipment | Southwest Airlines

Certain sporting items are subject to a $US75 fee each way, payable at airport check-in:

  • Bicycles exceeding standard size and weight limits.
  • Javelins. 
  • Kayak (other than a sea kayak).
  • Kiteboard.
  • Surfboard bags that exceed the standard weight limit of 50lb (length and width restrictions do not apply). Keels and fins must be removed and placed in your cabin or check-in baggage.
  • Vaulting poles. 
  • Windsurfing board – keels must be removed and placed in your check-in baggage.

Musical Instruments

If your musical instrument (including its case or cover) exceeds Southwest’s standard size limit for carry-on items (24 x 16 x 10in/61 x 40 x 25cm), it can be taken on board the aircraft as long as it fits in an overhead compartment or under a seat, and there is space available in the aircraft.

If your musical instrument cannot fit into an overhead compartment or under a seat, you can purchase a seat for the instrument and take it into the aircraft cabin as long as the instrument fits in the seat without blocking any aircraft signage and can be secured safely in the seat with a seatbelt. The instrument must be placed in the first row and in a seat closer to the window than any passenger sitting in that row.

Alternatively, a musical instrument can be checked in as one of your free check-in bags at no charge. However, oversize or overweight charges will apply if the instrument and the case or cover exceed Southwest’s standard check-in baggage limits (total dimensions of 62in/158cm and weight up to 50lb/23kg), up to the maximum size and weight accepted by Southwest Airlines for musical instruments (150in/380cm and 165lb/75kg).

Traveling With Infants and Children

Passengers traveling with children are allowed to check-in one stroller and one child restraint system (CRS) or car seat per child free of charge. These items are allowed in addition to your free check-in baggage allowance.

The stroller and CRS or car seat allowance applies to any type of stroller (umbrella, full-size, jogging stroller, etc.) and CRS or car seat.

Passengers may check in the stroller and CRS or car seat at the curbside, check-in counter, or at the gate.


Compared to other ‘low-cost’ airlines Southwest has a very generous check-in baggage allowance. And, compared to other airlines, Southwest’s baggage policies and fee structure are very simple.

All passengers get two free check-in bags up to 23kg in weight regardless of the fare type purchased. Additional bags can be purchased at a flat fee of $US75.  

Unless you’re carrying an unusual item such as sporting equipment, or a musical instrument, the only significant complication you need to worry about is if you are traveling to a Southwest destination where a baggage embargo (limitation) is in place – Southwest will notify you if this is the case.   

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